DUBAI // Two Indian expatriates who have joined a mass hunger strike in New Delhi risked arrest earlier today along with scores of other Indians to express their solidarity with a well-known social activist.
They are part of a group of several non-resident Indians (NRIs) from the UAE, who travelled on Sunday from the Emirates to press for a stronger Jan Lokpal or anti-corruption bill along with veteran activist Anna Hazare. Their action comes a day after India celebrated its 65th year of independence.
"We have courted arrest voluntarily," said KK Sarachandra Bose, a Dubai-based lawyer who was detained at the Chhatrasal stadium with thousands of protesters.
Protesters from the Gulf were carrying banners that read, "NRIs support India against corruption and Jan Lokpal Bill."
"Police has surrounded the stadium, where we are protesting along with more than 5,000 people. This (the stadium) is being considered a police station now," Mr Bose said from the country's capital.
He said that he and a businessman from Dubai, whose name he did not wish to disclose, had also begun a hunger strike along with the others at the stadium.
"We have started fasting," said Mr Bose, over the din of people shouting protest slogans.
The country was galvanised into action after Mr Hazare — hailed as a modern-day Gandhi — threatened to go on an indefinite hunger strike until the proposed bill includes scrutiny of the prime minister and the judiciary. The 73-year-old, veteran activist was sent to judicial custody at Tihar jail — one of the largest prisons in Delhi for hardened criminals — for a week this morning, after he refused to sign bail papers. Protests have broken out in several states demanding his release.
Indian protesters from the UAE had hoped that the widespread dissent would force the authorities to "wake up".
"The government must understand the pulse of the people," said Tony D'silva, a yoga teacher from Dubai. "It is quite encouraging to see young students from all over joining in. The gatherings everywhere is so huge."